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Canada’s border rejection for DWI’s is another reason for being battle-ready in criminal court

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Canada/the Great White North has many great places to visit. Beyond its cities is much natural beauty and a much lower average population per square mile than the United States. Quebec and Ontario are pleasant drives from my home.

Get a drunk driving/DWI/DUI conviction (and numerous other convictions) in or out of Canada, though, and you will generally be barred for several years from Canada, unless, of course, you already are a Canadian citizen. That is much tougher than the United States immigration treatment of alcohol that generally looks at whether a non-United States citizen is a habitual drunkard, which is a good reason for all non-U.S. citizens to even hire a lawyer when charged with non-jailable (and jailable) alcohol-related offenses, including being drunk in public and possessing an open alcoholic beverage container.

Like the oil filter commercial says, you can pay now or pay later in criminal court, by going with or without a qualified criminal defense lawyer. Most people do not have a lot of money saved to pay a criminal defense lawyer, but a criminal conviction can haunt one both in foreseeable and unforeseeable ways. For instance, how many of you knew that Canada has such tough immigration laws when it comes to DWI convictions? Moreover, a conviction with no adverse immigration consequences today can always face stiffer immigration laws tomorrow.

I continue seeing people come to court with jailable criminal cases without lawyers, and see prosecutors and cops dancing circles around them, often with sh*t-eating grins reassuring the pro se defendants that they are likely to avoid jail that day if they plead guilty, let alone any cops who query why a defendant would "waste" money and time on postponing court to obtain a lawyer, when the defendant can "get it over with" today without the pain of being locked up that day. Ouch!

Many who would qualify for public defender/ court-appointed counsel do not apply on time for such services, and get forced by judges to represent themselves, which gives them a fool for a client. My video here talks more about the importance of going to court with a qualified criminal defense lawyer. No matter how useless a criminal defendant thinks it is to defend a case, consider these points: (1) If the prosecutor’s necessary witnesses and evidence do not show up in court, the prosecutor cannot obtain a conviction at trial. (2) Many prosecutors often come to court woefully unprepared. A fully-prepared criminal defense lawyer is important for taking full advantage of unprepared prosecutors. (3) A review of your case by a qualified criminal defense lawyer may reveal holes in the prosecutor’s case that you did not know existed. (4) Qualified criminal defense lawyers can seek dispositions that are more favorable than pleading guilty to the original charge, or dispositions that minimize your sentencing exposure. Qualified criminal defense lawyers negotiate from a position of full strength, fearless and fully ready to effectively go to trial if a desirable settlement is not reached. (5) Acquittals are sometimes possible at trial even for those who did in fact commit a crime. (6) If you have been putting off consulting a lawyer because it is too psychologically painful to discuss your case, you will suffer even more psychological pain going to court without a lawyer.  

International travelers with criminal convictions or pending criminal cases are well-advised to consult in advance with a qualified immigration lawyer in the country that is to be visited. Merely because you are issued a travel visa does not automatically guarantee no problems on arrival at your international destination. Similarly, non-United States citizens with pending criminal charges in the United States should consult with a qualified immigration lawyer before leaving the country for a roundtrip, lest the person find himself or herself detained on re-entry to the United States.  

One is wise to obtain several certified copies of the dismissal or other favorable disposition of one’s criminal case before getting the case expunged — if the case is expungable — to have handy in the event that immigration authorities require knowing a case disposition, and also to have ready for various employment needs, security clearance applications, and professional licensing applications. 

Before the days of easily-available and reliable online databases, people could more easily enter other countries without immigration authorities knowing about their convictions. 1984 is here, with much of our lives open to prying eyes, even when those eyes are across the border.